Term Paper: Scientific Achievements. Albert Einstein

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¶ … scientific achievements. Albert Einstein is perhaps one of the most famous physicists of all time. He discovered the Theory of Relativity and is often known as the "father" of the atomic bomb. Einstein's life is a model to scientists and physicists today, and a valuable lesson in what one person can accomplish in their lifetime. Without Einstein's discoveries and theories, our world might be a very different place today.

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, Germany. His father was a merchant and his mother was a homemaker. Einstein was an excellent student, but a quiet and thoughtful boy. He always earned high grades in mathematics. One biographer notes, "In all these years he earned either the highest or the next-highest mark in mathematics and in Latin. But on the whole, he disliked those school years; authoritarian teachers, servile students, rote learning -- none of these agreed with him. Further, 'he had a natural antipathy for... gymnastics and sports...'" (Pais 37). He did not have many friends, and he mostly enjoyed the company of other adults. He read serious texts rather than literature, and enjoyed philosophical discussions with family friends (Pais 37-38). Einstein was always a serious and interested student of mathematics, which would serve him well in later years. Biographer Pais continues, "From age twelve to age sixteen, he studied differential and integral calculus by himself" (Pais 38). As a young man, Einstein and his family lived in Munich and Berlin, and in 1895, they relocated the family and the family business to Italy. He grew into a self-assured young man in Italy, and then traveled to Zurich where he would attend college. He graduated in 1900 with a certificate to teach science and physics. Einstein denounced his German citizenship during this time (he was extremely afraid of being made to serve in the German army), and he became a citizen of Switzerland in 1901, a citizenship he held until his death.

After he graduated, he was unable to find a position in a university, and was forced to return home to Milan to live with his parents, who could barely support him. He did not find a job until mid-1901, when he took a temporary position as a high school physics teacher. In 1902, he moved to Bern, Switzerland to take a job in the patent office there. His father also died in 1902. In 1903 he married Mileva Maria (or Marity), and in mid-1904 they had a son, Hans Albert. He continued his work in physics during his time at the patent office, and he published several professional papers during this time as well. In 1905, he wrote a paper that gained him his PhD degree from the University of Zurich, and wrote a paper that eventually earned him the Nobel Prize, too (Pais 48). Much of Einstein's most important work was done during this time he worked at the patent office. Essentially, he worked alone, carrying on the pattern of isolation that had made up much of his boyhood.

In 1908, Einstein began teaching university courses at the University of Bern part time in addition to his patent office job, which paid very little. In 1909, he resigned his job at the patent office to take a job as a professor at the University of Zurich, and in 1911, he left Zurich and moved to Prague to teach there. A second son, Edward, was also born in 1910. In 1915, he had honed his theory of relativity first introduced in 1905, and presented it, where it became incredibly popular and important in the scientific community. Einstein disliked teaching, he felt it interfered too much with his own thought and work, and in early 1914, he moved back to Berlin to take an appointment that allowed him not to lecture, which he enjoyed far more. In 1914, he also separated from his wife, Mileva. The marriage had not been successful, (his parents had vehemently opposed it at first), and Einstein was a preoccupied father at best. Biographer Pais continues, "But the marriage had been an unhappy one. Einstein never put all the blame for that on Mileva. With inner resistance, he had entered an undertaking which eventually went beyond his strength" (Pais 240). Mileva returned to Zurich with the boys, and subsequently the couple divorced.

He had reconnected with a cousin in Berlin, and had secretly conversed with her before his divorce. Another biographer notes, "He and Elsa wrote each other secret love letters. Telling her that he had been unable to love his own mother and found both her and Mileva 'unlikeable,' he burst out: 'I have to have someone to love, otherwise life is miserable. And this someone is you'" (Lewis 32). In fact, Elsa's presence in Berlin was one of the things that helped convince Einstein to move back to Berlin, and she helped nurse him when he became ill in 1917. He even moved into the apartment next to hers to be close to her before they married. His health fluctuated during 1917 and 1918, and often he was confined to bed with a stomach ulcer, which detracted from the work he loved so well. In early 1919, he was officially divorced from Mileva, and he married Elsa in June of the same year. Mileva never truly reconciled herself to the divorce, and Einstein actually committed all of his Nobel Prize money, actually not won until 1922, to her to entice her to agree to the divorce. Elsa loved him and took care of him, allowing him to concentrate on his work. His biographer writes, "Elsa, gentle, warm, motherly, and prototypically bourgeoisie, loved to take care of her Albertle. She gloried in his fame" (Pais 301). She died in 1936, after Einstein came to America, and he never remarried.

In 1932, the political climate in Europe was rapidly changing. Einstein was an outspoken pacifist and supporter of non-violence, and many feared for his life in Germany, since he was Jewish. He left Germany in December 1932 to accept a professorship at The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and he never went back to his birthplace again. He did not officially begin his professorship until the following year. In 1939, his sister Maja joined him in Princeton and lived with him the rest of her life. He died in 1955 at the age of 76.

Throughout his life, Einstein was acclaimed for his science, but he was also intensely devoted to the fate of the Jews. Another writer notes, "There she [his sister] makes a plausible extrapolation: that Einstein's 'religious feeling' found expression in later years in his deep interest and actions to ameliorate the difficulties to which fellow Jews were being subjected, actions ranging from his fights against anti-Semitism to his embrace of Zionism" (Holton). He did work for the formation of a Jewish state in Palestine, and in fact, he was offered the presidency of the newly formed nation of Israel in 1952, but he turned it down.

Einstein's life was an almost continual search for new information, study, and reflection on his passions - science and physics. Biographer Pais notes, "Einstein's activities related to thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and kinetic theory begin with his very first paper, completed at the end of 1900, and span a quarter of a century, during which time he wrote close to forty articles bearing in varying degree on these subjects" (Pais 55). It is interesting to note that many of his most worthwhile and legendary discoveries came in the earliest part of his career, and after the 1920s, his prolific work slowed down somewhat. He continued to teach, write, and work until his death in 1955, but his lasting legacy all occurred early in his life and his career. Another Einstein biographer notes, "A recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921, he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts in 1924" (Editor). All of these occurrences were based on his earlier works on relativity and quantum physics.

Many writers also assert Einstein had a lasting affect on philosophy and social philosophy. One author quotes Einstein, "Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors.... Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations" (Schilpp 649), and believes this sums up Einstein's personal philosophy, that humankind is more important than facts and knowledge. Einstein himself felt he was a philosopher, too. Another biographer writes, "He too regards himself as a philosopher. Often he has said to me, 'I am more a philosopher than a physicist'" (Infeld 115). This idea sets Einstein apart from many scientists, and sums up his interest in pacifism and humanism. In another essay Einstein wrote, "To ponder interminably over the reason for one's own existence or the meaning of life in general seems to me, from an objective point-of-view, to be sheer folly" (Einstein et al. 4). Thus, his feelings… [END OF PREVIEW]

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